We are absolutely heartbroken about the little boy who died as a result of the alligator attack at Disney World and cannot imagine the trauma this family will carry with them for the rest of their lives. My way of dealing with the fear that can come from a tragedy like this is to seek out information to help me gain a balanced perspective.
As scary as alligator attacks on humans are very rare and you only have a 1 in 2.4 million chance of being injured in an alligator attack. Since 1948, there have only been 23 deaths from alligator attacks in the entire state of Florida with far more deaths attributed to large mammals like cows and horses, insect and spider bites, and dog attacks. Prior to this recent attack, the last alligator encounter that resulted in injury was thirty years ago - in 1986 - and the victim survived.
Alligator Behavior & Minimizing Risks
May and June are breeding and nesting months so alligators cover more ground during these months. In general, alligators are most active when temperatures are between 82° to 92° F (28° to 33° C).
Alligators typically hunt at night, especially just after sundown or just before sunrise. An alligator's natural hunting behavior is to watch for animals coming to drink in the shallow waters near the edges of lakes, ponds and streams.
Key take-away: Be alert when walking along waterways and stay out of the water. Stick to swimming pools and areas that are marked as safe for swimmers.
Alligators Don't Eat When It is Below 70-degrees
Alligators are cold blooded and typically cannot eat when it is less than 70-degrees. They become dormant when the temperature drops below 55-degrees. Since they are cold-blooded they don’t need to eat nearly as often as we do and alligators stop eating at all in the winter (depending on temperatures: November – March). When it is cold, alligators go through a dormant period called “brumation” where their metabolisms slows way down and they become inactive and stop eating until the weather warms enough to resume regular activity.
Key take-away: If you're really fearful of alligators, plan your Disney vacation for the colder months when alligators are dormant.
Never feed alligators - it is illegal because it breaks down an alligator's natural aversion to humans.